demand response
Image credit: Stock

Energy markets are changing around the globe. The idea of markets served solely by large, central power stations is an out-dated one. What customers want is driven by a range of factors from price to accessibility to provenance.

The DELTA project is aiming to develop innovative solutions to unleash the potential of demand response around Europe. The project, comprised of 10 partner organisations spread across eight European countries and funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, is creating hardware and software based upon virtual power plant principles and powered by blockchain. Specifically, DELTA is looking at ways in which aggregators can more efficiently manage their portfolios of small and medium scale prosumers and consumers.

The key innovations for this lie in the creation of the DELTA Virtual Node, a network of consumers and prosumers who are clustered together based on energy characteristics as opposed to geography. These characteristics and data are securely gathered by the second key element of DELTA, the Fog-Enabled Intelligent Device (FEID) which will be installed in homes and businesses.

These two platforms give aggregators the tools to effectively react to demand response signals at periods of high demand. They will also encourage increased use of renewable energy sources as providing flexibility to the grid becomes easier. Both of these activities have the potential to increase demand response revenue for aggregators. DELTA is also working on ways to encourage more active consumer participation in demand response as well. By using gamification techniques and engaging user interfaces, DELTA will place consumers at the centre of how their energy is used.

The blockchain element of DELTA plays a vital role in this, with the establishment of smart contracts and the security and traceability which distributed ledger technology brings.

With the project only in its first year, and due to finish in April 2021, 2019 is shaping up to be a hugely productive year for DELTA. A prototype FEID is expected in the coming months with the project looking towards a pre-pilot testing phase in Greece, prior to real-world testing in pilot sites in Cyprus and the United Kingdom.

Aside from the technical aspects of DELTA, regulatory and market analysis is being conducted in line with the development of new business models and use cases.

How we see DELTA being used:

When we were proposing DELTA, we wanted to look at objectives which would deliver value for all of our stakeholders. Through our discussions and experience, we identified some objectives which we are now making real progress towards.

Specifically, in terms of creating a game-changing DR framework to unleash energy flexibility, to develop the DELTA Virtual Node and relieve aggregators of resource-heavy tasks and delivering real-time intelligent monitoring and control at customer level.

Our business cases highlight the applications where we see the DELTA framework having the biggest impact and effectively meeting our objectives. These business cases will define the future use of DELTA amongst small and medium scale prosumers and consumers. In formulating these cases, our stakeholders were crucial. We opened up communication channels with DSOs, aggregators, ESCOs and numerous other organisations and individuals to find out what they wanted for a futureproof solution in addressing energy flexibility.

One business scenario centres around how DELTA can make delivery of demand response services to the flexibility market more efficient, through the DELTA Virtual Node. The key areas we are looking at to achieve this involve improving demand response revenues.

By using near real-time monitoring, which the FEID offers, we can do two things: firstly, we can improve availability declarations across assets and portfolios to improve potential revenues for consumers and aggregators while offering the system operator more reliable DR services. Secondly, by using an energy market price forecasting tool, we can assist aggregators in identifying the best paying flexibility service ahead of time.

Blockchain is beginning to be discussed as having a huge impact on the energy industry and it forms a central pillar of DELTA and our business cases. In a second scenario, we envisage blockchain to increase customer base and DR adoption rates thanks to the security the technology offers.

Using blockchain, specifically smart contracts, has the potential to decrease transaction costs and duration of the settlement process. Improving efficiency is an area where blockchain really shines, enabling computer-to-computer contracting allowing DELTA to add maximum value from assets while not impacting negatively on portfolio risk management.

The use of DELTA, and the business cases we envisage, are driven by the development of both the DELTA Virtual Node and the FogEnabled Intelligent Device which will bring the operational efficiency and reliability which are central to the development of the flexibility market.

Future of demand response

To address issues with greenhouse gas emissions, the power sector has been undergoing significant change in recent years. Renewable energy technologies have seen wide scale adoption, most significantly of wind and solar photovoltaic installation at utility scale, presenting integration problems due to their associated variability, unpredictability and asynchronicity of supply.

At the same time, the number of distributed prosumers within the electricity network has also been rising dramatically, as has the technical capability and associated cost of control equipment. It is envisaged that the future electricity networks will engage all energy users in the maintenance of the grid. Key to this is demand response. The Third Energy Package from the European Commission promotes the move to a framework involving end users in system balancing mechanisms:
'In relation to security of supply, energy efficiency/DSM and for the fulfilment of environmental goals and goals for energy from renewable sources, […] Member States may introduce the implementation of long-term planning, taking into account the possibility of third parties seeking access to the system.’

DELTA is building a framework for the integration of small to medium prosumers in the electricity network to facilitate their participation in demand response service provision. Wider access to the energy markets of demand response is foreseen for these entities. Currently, key barriers to participation such as minimum bid sizes and minimum technical unit sizes prohibit their participation. Technological solutions to user clustering and aggregation of these users are forthcoming, widening the scope and potential for demand response as an effective balancing mechanism. Such solutions will increase the network hosting capacity of renewable generation and aid significantly with the decarbonisation of the power sector.

The Delta system and Blockchain (why to use it and its value to consumers, prosumers and aggregators)

The DELTA Project is developing a fog-enabled lightweight framework utilising a virtual node, a lightweight client and a lightweight proxy service. The SDK will enable smart IoT devices with limited capabilities to obtain an identity of their own and sign their transactions. At the same time, additional transaction actions are transferred from the clients to the proxy service, which is then responsible for bi-directional communication with the blockchain nodes.

By enabling smart IoT devices to sign their transactions the DELTA project will ensure end-to-end cybersecurity, diminishing the possibility of an intermediary tampering with the data.

The devices do not have to trust each other or the lightweight proxy, and vice versa. This way the aggregator will ensure that the data they are receiving from the fogenabled intelligent devices (FEIDs), installed at their consumers and prosumers locations, operate as they are expected to and the information and notifications originating from them have not been altered in any way.

Additionally, consumers and prosumers will be grouped under a Delta Virtual Node (DVN) depending on their energy profile and characteristics. The DVN will act as a virtual agent connecting the smart-grids with the DELTA platform to gain almost real-time communication within a trusted and permissioned network. Customers who are able to respond to this network’s energy demand become trusted partners through their FEIDs and DVNs. By monitoring the available flexibility at any time, the smart contracts between key players are formed dynamically and are written on the distributed ledger. This enables the agreements to be made on-the-fly when resources are available and demand increases, and to ensure that prosumers are rewarded for being trustworthy or penalties are enforced for insolvent prosumers.

The data produced from the FEIDs is confidential and has to be protected. The DELTA project utilises a permissioned blockchain, in order to protect data from indiscriminate access. Without explicitly informing the data holder and without getting her/his explicit consent, nobody can access personal information, profiles or measurements from the DELTA blockchain network.

With all of the above DELTA is considered a holistic solution for today’s smart-grid enabled energy networks.

MEET THE TEAM

Dr. Dimitrios Tzovaras is a Senior Researcher and the Director of the Information Technologies Institute (ITI) at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH).

Dr. Dimosthenis Ioannidis has been a Senior Researcher in Information Technologies Institute of CERTH since October 2006. His research interests are in the area of security, human behaviour analysis, biometrics and 2D/3D data-driven AI for the Internet of Things and People.

Christos Patsonakis is a PhD Candidate at the University of Athens and a research associate in the Information Technologies Institute (ITI) at the Center for Research and Technologies Hellas (CERTH).

Sofia Terzi is a Computer Scientist with an MSc in Information and Communication Technologies. Sofia works at CERTH/ITI as a Blockchain Solutions Architect. She is experienced with permissioned and permissionless blockchains and smart contracts design, development and deployment.

Andrew Smith – European Project Executive with Carr Communications As DELTA’s communication and dissemination lead, Andrew implements the strategy which ensures the research, ideas and innovations of the project are communicated to stakeholders. Andrew works for Dublin-based Carr Communications who manage the communication, dissemination and exploitation of a number of Horizon 2020 funded projects.

Mircea Bucur – Product Manager with KiWi Power Mircea leads DELTA’s efforts in defining the business and use cases for the DELTA system. With over a decade of experience in business modelling and commercial strategies, his current role with Londonbased KiWi Power gives the DELTA project a hands-on insight into how aggregators approach demand response practices.

Dr Ian Cole – Special Scientist at the University of Cyprus Ian is a special scientist at the University of Cyprus where he works to define the system requirements of DELTA and the DELTA Aggregator architecture. Ian’s areas of research expertise include decarbonising the power sector, integration of clean energy generation systems on to the grid and performance assessment of solar energy conversion systems.